I’m not much of a DIY person, which is a tad unfortunate as my lass is on a bit of a renovation and redecorating kick at the moment. We had a whole new bathroom put in last month and the list of jobs to do keeps growing daily. But I am utterly useless at that sort of thing as it just does not interest me. So a game based around the whole idea of renovation and redecorating really shouldn’t appeal to me. Yet, here I am reviewing House Flipper from developer Empyrean and publisher, Frozen District.
You’ve got to earn it around here before you purchase your first property. No worries though! Luckily, there’s plenty of work at your fingertips! Take job offers from nearby residents – clean up, paint walls, install heaters, showers, and air conditioners, or even furnish their whole property! Once the grateful clients pay you for your solid work, it’s time to get your own house.
House Flipper is all about flipping houses (title!). No, not the physical act of literally turning a house over on end with a sudden and quick movement. But the concept of taking a rundown, dilapidated shack and turning it into a livable and more importantly, a sellable dwelling. That’s it, that’s the game. There is no real story to follow and just you as a one-man (or woman, you can choose) house renovation machine. You start out with a broken-down shack of an office and a laptop. From that laptop, you can browse the many houses for sale for you to flip. The only problem is that you lack the funds to buy any of them. This is where the game has two different play modes. One being the option where you buy a property and renovate it, to sell it for profit. As you don’t have the cash to do that at first, you need to take on odd jobs, the other play mode.
The odd jobs come in the form of emails and vary in what you will have to do. Someone might contact you asking to just clean their house. So off you go, armed with your mop, you’ll have to pick up rubbish, clean up any mess and sort out the occasional cockroach infestation. Other jobs will have you painting rooms, fitting appliances, putting in new flooring, knocking down walls and installing a lot of radiators. The customer will give you their instructions of what they want doing and you do it. Even with those instructions, you still have a degree of freedom in just how you do the job. As an example, let’s say a customer asks you to paint a room. They will tell you what colour paint they want and away you go. So if a customer asks for a room to be painted red and yellow, you have to paint it red and yellow, but in what way is up to you. You can paint one wall red and three yellow, two of each, you can just paint individual stripes and mix and match in any way you wish, as long as you paint in the colours the customer asks for, the overall design is up to you, so be creative.
This freedom also applies to furnishings and decorations. The customer will ask for a certain sofa but what colour and where you place it (as long as it is in the right room) is up to you. You are armed with a very handy tablet that gives you access to everything you need. You can buy all the furniture, decor, paint and more. The tablet also provides you with the information on what jobs need doing, in what rooms along with how much of each job you have done via a %. It’s all very well designed with an ease of use that you’ll soon pick up. As you progress through these odd jobs, they become more and more complex.
Some of these jobs have a bit of a sense of humour and variety too. I mean, there is one where you are asked by the owner, who is called Mikey George, to decorate his house for Christmas. Because his ‘Last Christmas‘ was a bit disappointing and this year, he’s spending it with someone special. Get it? Another job had me converting an old, dilapidated office into a kindergarten, complete with bright coloured walls and kid’s toys everywhere. The jobs part of the game doesn’t just help to get you some coin to invest in house flipping, it also works as an extended tutorial and teaches you’ll all the skills that you will need.
Those skills are split into five categories and the more you use them, the better you get. You can level each skill up and slowly become a better one-man (or woman) house renovator. The more you clean, the better your cleaning skill becomes and you can upgrade to faster cleaning, a better mop and more. The more you paint, you can learn to paint bigger areas, use less paint (increasing your profits) and more. I do like it when games use a levelling system that makes sense, the more you do something the better you get at that something. As opposed to just giving you points to arbitrarily spend on anything you want. House Flipper does start out very slow and plodding, tiresome even. I mean, at first, you can only paint one strip of a wall at a time and painting the whole wall takes a while… that’s just one wall too. However, level up and unlock skills and you’ll be painting larger parts of a wall and faster too. The game soon becomes much more speedy once you have a few of those skills unlocked.
Playing through all of those odd job missions and you’ll not only have the money to spend on a house to flip but you’d also have learned the skills to renovate that house and sell it to make even more money, which brings me to the main part of the game.
Now armed with some money and the skills you have learned from those odd jobs, you can buy a house. Starting out with a small three-room shack, you need to apply all you have learned to turn it into a liveable dwelling. Unlike the odd jobs, you now have full creative freedom to decorate the house however you like. As you do decorate, potential buyers will chip in with words of what they like and dislike, so you can create a home specifically for them to guarantee a better sale. Different buyers will require different things. A family will need more rooms and for them to be decorated accordingly for their children. A singleton won’t require quite as much and would be happy with just one bedroom. Some buyers may want a big kitchen and some are happy with no kitchen at all. Maybe someone wants a house with cutting-edge technology, a big TV, gaming consoles and such. Another person will be happy with some bookshelves and a bit of office space. Still, even with all of the potential buyers telling you what they like and don’t like, you don’t have to listen to them and can redecorate however you want.
Each of the houses you can buy varies in size and in terms of what needs to be done. Some houses have been destroyed in a fire and you’ll need to do some serious cleaning before you can even start to renovate them. Others will be new builds that give you a blank canvas to create a dream home. Small rundown shacks to larger, multi-storey buildings. Knockdown walls and open up bigger living spaces, build walls to create more rooms in the house. Re-tile a bathroom and kit it out with all-new fixtures. Remove doors and windows and replace them with new ones, or just keep the ones already there and make do. It really is up to you what you do or don’t with the house you have bought. Then, when you are happy, put it on the market and (hopefully) make a profit. Use that profit to buy another and bigger house, rinse and repeat.
House Flipper shouldn’t work because it really is a bit redundant and very repetitive. Yet, there is something really satisfying with helping to give people their dream home. I have spent hours just painting and designing a single room (never mind a whole house) and I have found it really relaxing too. There is some chilled-out music that plays in the background and the whole thing just feels very easygoing. Had a tough day at work? Load up some House Flipper and unwind by painting a bedroom, works for me.
I do have a few negatives to bring up though. The money in this game soon becomes completely redundant as you make so much of it so quickly and you will always find a buyer for a house. It’s pretty much impossible to lose money unless you purposely go out of your way to do a terrible job. I mean, just by finishing all of the odd jobs and before getting into the actual house flipping part, I have over £120,000 in the bank. The money in the game is less a currency and more like a high score. Gameplay can get very monotonous very quickly because all you are really doing is aiming a pointer and pressing a button. Need a wall painting? Aim the paint-roller at a wall and press a button. Need some tiling doing? Aim the tiles at a wall and press a button, etc. Even though there is a variety of jobs to do, they all work pretty much the same with the same basic mechanics. The only real variation comes when you are fitting appliances. Even then, it is still move a pointer around and press a button… just with a tad more variety.
There’s a slew of DLCs for the PC version that have not been released for the console. This is a bit disappointing seeing as the game is already a couple of years old at this point. There has been one piece of DLC released for the console version, Garden Flipper, where you fix up gardens. But the PC version has other DLCs that include the addition of pets, taking part in a house renovation TV show, the apartments from Friends and more. Finding what you want from the shops can be a pain too as there are so many options. There is a search bar but it never brings up everything and looking for something specific manually is really awkward. As an example, let’s say that I am decorating a living room and want a TV stand I have to select furnishings, the type of furniture I want and then the living room, which opens up the furniture options for that room. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for the living room to be the first option you choose, to then go into furniture, electronics, etc? I need an item for the bathroom, select bathroom first then the options for what that room has. I need an item for the kitchen, select the kitchen first. You get the point. Looking for an item in the shop seems a bit backwards to me.
Then there is the placing of items. Because this is a first-person view game, it’s hard to see how close or far away you are from a wall when putting a piece of furniture down. This results in a lot of just slight tapping of the controls to try and move a millimetre here and there and it does become a bit finicky. A top-down view would’ve helped when placing items. While you can knock down walls, you can only do that with the walls inside the house itself. So you can’t destroy exterior walls and make the house bigger. You also can’t knock walls down in a basement. This does make some real-world sense as they can be supports for what is above them.
£18 – £23 is how much House Flipper will cost, depending on the format. Despite the niggles and despite this being a very monotonous game with little depth… I just can’t stop playing it. House Flipper is hypnotic and utterly relaxing. It is basic and very repetitive but thoroughly playable at the same time. I just wish it did have a bit more depth, like you running an actual business where you have to be careful with your money. Being able to design and build a house yourself from scratch and more would’ve added several layers to the gameplay. Still, there is a sequel coming next year, so hopefully, that’ll add more depth. But I do recommend this one, it’s great to dip in and out of just to unwind. Oh, House Flipper is currently available via Game Pass on PC and Xbox.